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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister J. Malcolm Fraser of Australia at the State Dinner

June 30, 1981

The President. Mr. Prime Minister and Mrs. Fraser, our Australian friends, and our friends from America:

Today has been a great pleasure. As Prime Minister Fraser and I discussed bilateral issues and world questions, it was clear that the bonds between us and the bonds between our two countries are strong. We're both committed to growth economies based on free enterprise. As the Prime Minister said, "A philosophy can't be mere words. It must guide policy and be expressed in action." And this he has done—bringing down inflation, spurring growth by cutting government spending, limiting bureaucracy, abolishing unnecessary regulations, and cutting taxes. You know, we ought to try something like that here. [Laughter]

But in his words, Australia has "passed the ball to private enterprise which has now picked it up and is running hard." Well, we in America are on our way to doing the same thing. And internationally, our ideas are also similar. We both recognize the responsibility of freedom and are prepared to shoulder it squarely. In culture and business, our societies cooperate to share opportunities, understanding, and friendships. We've hit on only one minor snag, and that happens to be sporting competition. Now, the America's Cup I understand; that's friendly—we always win. [Laughter] But the U.S. Open is something else again. [Laughter] And David Graham says he isn't through with us yet. [Laughter]

But Australia, like America, is a country where anything can happen and where anything can be achieved because people are free. "Australian history," Mark Twain wrote, "is full of surprises and adventures and incongruities and contradictions and incredibilities, but they're all true. They all happened." [Laughter] Well it's the same way here, but that's our secret. We do not stagnate in a planned and withering government-dominated existence. We're free to be all that we can imagine.

A few moments ago at the table, I was asking Mrs. Fraser—just checking out my memory to make sure it was correct, and that is a very wonderful day that is observed annually in Australia in commemoration of the Battle of the Coral Sea, the turning point in World War II, where once again, as we've been so often, we were allied. And I have on my desk the tribute that was rendered at one of those particular days of commemoration by an Australian and his recognition of the blood bond between Americans and Australians who died together to turn that war around and to make Australia safe. I didn't dare read it here because I don't think I could have gotten through it tonight.

But the dynamics of the Australian way of life make her an even more powerful ally, and the vitality of her people make her an even stronger friend. So I would like to propose a toast to the Prime Minister of Australia and Mrs. Fraser, to the continued friendship and cooperation between our two countries, and to Her Majesty the Queen.

The Queen.

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your kind and gracious remarks. But may I first, with your permission, let your guests here this evening into a small secret between us, which is a source of special pleasure to me? Ladies and gentlemen, the President is exploiting one of my weaknesses, and I freely confess it. He's given me a magnificent fishing rod. [Laughter] I'm not sure whether there's some message in this. I don't know whether he should be encouraging me to wade in deep waters. But I'm sure that if I do, he'd want me to make a big catch. And when I catch a fish with this particular rod, I'll always be wondering who it is on the end of it. [Laughter] That's got a particular relevance for certain people in Australia. Mr. President, it's a splendid gift, and I thank you very much indeed for it.

I speak as one dedicated to the principles of small government, low inflation, and short after dinner speeches. [Laughter] And fortunately, what I have to say can be said simply and briefly. It's been a great pleasure to meet you, Mr. President, and to exchange views with you today. We weren't able to raise many arguments. I wasn't altogether surprised at that, because I had watched from afar and read what you'd had to say and had seen what you'd been doing, and I applaud it.

You and I, your government and mine, your country and mine share basic values and principles. We have confidence in the enterprise and judgment of free men and women living in open societies and conducting their own affairs without too much government interference. We maintain that the role of governments we lead and of all other governments should be a limited one and wish that that were more widely recognized in more countries, I think, around the world.

We know that the market economy has delivered the goods in the past and believe that it can continue to deliver them while allowing people the greatest freedom of choice. We believe that liberty is worth defending, and we're not inhibited in saying so. We believe that nothing is gained and a good deal is lost by pretending that tyranny is not tyranny, even if we have to deal with those who perpetrate it. And we know that in an imperfect world, those who wish to remain free must also remain strong and united. This, I suggest, is not a bad basis of agreement to be getting on with.

I happen to believe that the future of free societies is going to depend crucially on the quality of leadership they produce in the immediate future. That leadership must both recognize danger and stimulate confidence, for in recent years, our societies have simultaneously suffered from comforting illusions about their enemies and from doubt and uncertainty about themselves.

The feeling of these illusions and doubts has become, I suspect in both our countries in past years, a major intellectual growth industry. The trend must be reversed, and reversing will require courage, imagination, and staying power.

Leadership is more than a matter of position papers, options, and management. It is a matter of poise, of inner conviction, of the self-assurance that comes from being at ease with one's self—of what Ernest Hemingway summed up as "grace under pressure." It is also being able to embody and express the deepest aspirations of ordinary men and women, because that is what our kind of governments is all about, and that is what we stand for and that is our purpose.

It is that sort of leadership that free people throughout the world are looking for, and it is that sort of leadership that you, Mr. President, just by being yourself, have begun to provide. And this is clear from the spirit beginning to show in this United States.

Mr. President, we in Australia have arrived at our own independent conclusions as to what is needed if peace, freedom, and prosperity are to be maintained in the world. We've done so living far from the centers of Western intellectual and cultural fashions which, given the nature of those fashions in recent years, has perhaps given us an unfair advantage. [Laughter]

We've been prepared to advance our views when they were somewhat less popular than they are now. But the fact that they have become more accepted will not cause us to put them less vigorously or to change course. I have nothing against being in a majority occasionally. [Laughter]

Mr. President, until today I've observed your Presidency from a considerable distance. And they say that distance, or should I say a long shot, lends color to the view. But in this instance, I'm feeling that things look much better even close-up.

For your own sake and for the sake of the free world, I wish you well, Mr. President, over the next 3 1/2 years. And I ask everyone here to join me in drinking to your health and to the health of this great country and of all the American people.

Mr. President.

Note: The President spoke at 9:33 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister J. Malcolm Fraser of Australia at the State Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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